How a Knesset Bill Becomes Law
As the media maintains its focus on domestic Israeli politics, and political analysts and commentators in Israel and around the world continue to opine on what’s in store for Israel’s government and legislature, it’s important to understand the process through which a Knesset bill becomes a law in Israel.
While you might think it’s simple, it’s actually a multi-stage process that can take weeks, if not months, before it is completed.
In addition, it is also important to bear in mind that more bills are proposed by parliamentarians in the Israeli parliament than in any other parliament around the world, with many never becoming enacted into law. For example, during the 20th Knesset, although 6,600 bills were proposed by members of the Knesset, less than 10% of these bills actually entered into Israeli law books.
Thus, when hearing news about bills being proposed in the Knesset, it is important to remember that these bills have a long way to go before becoming laws and, statistically, most bills never get beyond Knesset debates.
Here, we take a look at the Israeli legislative process and explain every stage that is needed to pass a law in the Knesset.
It should be noted that this lengthy process is for bills presented by private members. For bills that are presented by a government minister or a Knesset committee, the process starts at the first reading stage.
Stage One: Drafting the Bill
When a member of the Knesset (MK) wishes to pass a law, the first thing they must do is draft a bill that features all the legislation’s details. Since most MKs are not well-versed in the legal vocabulary, the majority of bills are drafted with the aid of members of the Knesset’s legal department or a knowledgeable lawyer.
After the bill has been appropriately drafted, the MK who initiated the bill will then try to find other Knesset members from a wide variety of parties to co-sponsor the bill. The more support the bill has, the easier it is to get it through the initial stages of the legislative process.
In addition, one of the most effective ways to garner support for a bill is by receiving the support of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which is headed by the Justice Minister. The support of this committee effectively demonstrates that the governing coalition approves of the bill and will quicken the process for it to be voted on and turned into law.
Stage Two: The Knesset Presidium
Once it has been drafted and the names of co-sponsoring MKs have been added to it, the bill is then sent to the Knesset Presidium, which is made up of the Knesset’s speaker and deputy speakers (there can be up to eight deputy speakers in the Presidium).
After it has been determined that the bill is not racist in its essence and does not deny the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, it can then receive approval from the Presidium and is placed on the Knesset table.
Stage Three: Preliminary Reading
After the bill has been brought to the Knesset table, it has to wait for 45 days until it is brought to the Knesset chamber for the preliminary reading (in some cases, the preliminary reading can occur earlier than 45 days).
At the preliminary reading, the MK who initiated the bill presents it before the Knesset plenum. Afterward, other MKs can speak out against the bill. At the end of the preliminary reading, a vote is taken within the Knesset plenum.
If a majority of voting MKs support the bill, it has passed the preliminary reading and moves on to the next stage.
Stage Four: Knesset Committee Deliberation
Once a bill passes the preliminary reading, it is sent to a relevant Knesset committee for further analysis and debate.
During committee deliberations, various interested parties are invited to express their opinions on the proposed legislation. These interested parties include other members of the Knesset, representatives of government ministries, representatives of organizations, and concerned citizens.
As part of its deliberations, the committee may also add amendments to the proposed bill.
After the committee deliberations, the bill is sent back to the Knesset plenum for a first reading (unless the committee decides to remove the bill from the Knesset’s agenda).
Stage Five: First Reading
At the first reading, the Knesset plenum is presented with the bill (including any amendments) after it has been analyzed and deliberated on by the appropriate committee.
After the bill is presented, the Knesset votes on it. If a majority of voting MKs support the bill, it is then passed back to the committee that initially reviewed it. If this is a government bill, it is decided after the first reading which committee to send it to. If a majority of voting MKs do not support the bill, it is dropped from the Knesset’s agenda
Stage Six: Knesset Committee Debate
At this stage, the relevant committee prepares the bill for presentation to the Knesset plenum for the second and third readings. The committee can also decide to remove the bill from the Knesset agenda.
Stage Seven: Second Reading
After the bill passes the committee, it is then sent back to the Knesset plenum for a second reading.
At this stage, the chairperson of the committee that prepared the bill presents it to the Knesset and it is debated among its members.
Afterwards, the present MKs vote on each article of the bill separately. If the bill passes the second reading, it is immediately brought to a third reading.
Stage Eight: Third Reading
In general, the third reading takes place immediately after the second reading. At this stage, the entire bill is voted on as a single entity. If the majority of voting MKs support the bill, it passes the third reading and becomes Israeli law.
If a bill is presented by the government or a Knesset committee, there are four stages to the procedure by which the bill becomes law, while if the bill is presented by a private member of the Knesset, there are eight stages to the process. And as you can see from the above, the Israeli legislative process is a long and arduous one.